Trump tells House Republicans they risk losing their seats if Trumpcare isn’t passed
President Trump headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet privately with members of the House in an attempt to change their minds on the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act.
In the meeting, the president was blunt: Pass this bill or risk being voted out of office next year. “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done,” he said.
Trump also personally called out one of the biggest critics of the bill, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the powerful leader of the Freedom Caucus who previously helped oust John Boehner and could make or break the vote, scheduled for Thursday.
“Mark Meadows, I’m coming after you,” Trump said half-jokingly.
“I’m still a ‘no,’ ” Meadows said after the meeting. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”
The healthcare bill is an important litmus test for Trump, who told reporters on Friday that the bill would pass “easily” and “quickly.”
The Republicans want to bring their Obamacare replacement to the House floor Thursday, but it’s not clear proponents of the bill have enough support within their own party to advance the legislation out of the House to the Senate, much less on to the president’s desk.
At least one participant, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, confirmed through a spokesperson that he was unmoved by Trump’s hard sell. “No vote coming in to the meeting, and he was a ‘no’ going out,” he said.
Tennessee Rep. John Duncan told The Hill that Trump stressed that if they don’t pass the bill on Thursday, “it will put everything in jeopardy” that he wants to do on his agenda.
The bill has divided the Republican Party, with some wanting to replace and repeal portions of the current law simultaneously and the rest wanting to repeal it first. In a bid to gain votes, the bill has been changed enough times that the Congressional Budget Office plans to issue a new, recalibrated estimate of the costs and impact on Americans Tuesday, even though text is still not finalized.
With Speaker Paul Ryan noticeably struggling to whip the vote, Trump has made some personal overtures to lawmakers, including an Air Force One trip with Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, and a meeting last week at the White House with 13 members of the Republican Study Committee.
Trump later bragged of the group, “These folks were mostly no’s yesterday and now every single one is a yes.”
But the Trump administration seems increasingly unlikely to sway the biggest critics of the bill, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, and Meadows, who all traveled to Mar-a-Lago Saturday to negotiate with Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers. Trump reportedly skipped the meeting; it’s not clear what he spent the day doing, though he was spotted wearing a golfing glove and a spokesperson told Politico he may have “hit a few balls.”
Meadows had previously told the Washington Examiner that without his support the bill would fail, based on a preliminary whip count of the House Freedom Caucus, which reportedly counts between 35 and 40 members, who all reportedly got copies of “The Art of the Deal” from Rand Paul to assist them negotiating with Trump.
The conservative PAC Club for Growth, which opposes the bill, also announced Tuesday a $500,000 ad buy targeting 10 congressional districts whose representatives are on the fence.
The bill needs 216 votes to pass the House.